Chapter 201: Louella Gets A Reprimand

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       Report to the office!" The disembodied command over the classroom intercom had sounded cold and stern. Louella realized her hands were trembling as she unlocked her desk drawer and took out her heavy black Coach bag, then gathered up her grade book and attendance sheets. Whoever that was on the intercom sounded seriously ticked off, she mused. Wonder if they're going to fire me or something? But I didn't do anything wrong! Geez, I'm getting paranoid! Besides, they never fire substitutes!
       She gently pushed her way through the hordes of noisy students teeming in the halls. She returned a couple of waves from her students. "Yo, Miss Preston!" called Damian, grinning mischievously. "You goin' to the office? Did y'all do somethin' wrong?"
       Louella gave him a weak smile. All those years when I was in Catholic school, I never once got sent to the office! she steamed. And all these years working, and I never once got called down like this. And in front of my students!
       She trotted along the corridor, climbed two sets of stairs, and wished she hadn't worn high heels to work. Her feet were burning as she pushed open the door to the office, and the pain was making her angry.
       "Somebody told me over the intercom to come to the office," she blurted to a woman behind the desk.
       "And who might you be?" the woman answered coolly.
       "Eleanor Preston, long-term math substitute.."
       "Oh." There was no interest. "That would be Mrs. Faulkner, the principal. Let me check to see if she can see you." She picked up the phone, punched an intercom button, and talked low so Louella couldn't hear.
       Louella wanted to snap that she hadn't walked all the way to the office to wait, and that she had another class coming in thirty minutes. But she felt a chill in the air and kept quiet. It's not like I need this flipping job! she thought. It's not like they're giving me benefits or anything! Good thing I've got that Lottery income—otherwise I'd be a sitting duck for this kind of ambush!
       The woman looked up. "You can go in there," she said, nodding toward a partly-opened door.
       Louella squared her shoulders, nodded formally, and pushed the door open. Mrs. Faulkner, seated behind a huge wooden desk, said, "Shut the door, please, Miss Preston."
       Louella did so, and looked around for a chair, but the only other places to sit were piled high with papers. Her feet were really hurting now. She allowed her purse to slide off her shoulder to the floor.
       There was a pause for effect, as Mrs. Faulkner studied a pencil from end to end. Then she snapped, "What was the meaning of that lesson you were teaching this morning, Miss Preston?"
       "I was teaching them math," said Louella. "Giving them problems they could relate to."
       "Well, your lesson was totally inappropriate. It was more about politics than math. You could lose your job over this!" She glared.
       Louella felt like saying, "You know what you can do with your job?," but then thought about her students. "Yes, I know," she said.


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This story was published on November 1, 2000.